About Elizabeth H Blackburn

Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Blackburn’s team set out to explore whether telomere DNA was created by an unknown enzyme. shes a graduate student Carol Greider observed activity in a cell extract.Blackburn has been widely honoured as (among others) President of the American Society for Cell Biology 1998 and of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2010. She has been elected a Foreign Fellow of the USA National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,

more about her

When Blackburn presented her results in 1980, Szostak suggested they try an experiment by grafting the CCCCAA sequence to previously vulnerable minichromosomes in yeast. Sure enough, the telomere protected them from degradation. As the two organisms were not related, this showed a fundamental mechanism common to most plants and animals.

What Elizabeth did

Blackburn’s team set out to explore whether telomere DNA was created by an unknown enzyme. On Christmas Day, 1984, graduate student Carol Greider observed activity in a cell extract. Greider and Blackburn found that the enzyme, which they called telomerase, contained an RNA blueprint of the CCCCAA sequence and proteins, allowing telomerase to build longer telomeres. Blackburn then showed that telomere shortening in Tetrahymena could be caused by mutating telomerase itself.